Saturday, November 20, 2010

Camouflage Artist | Clinton Adams

The following are excerpts from an Oral History Interview with American artist and art historian Clinton Adams, who served as a camouflage artist in World War II. The interview was conducted by Paul J. Karlstrom on August 2, 1995, at Adams' home in Albuquerque NM for the Archives of American Art. The entire interview is available online here

Clinton Adams: But filling in the wartime years, I was fortunate in that I did not go overseas, was in this country. If I had just not been given one transfer that happened out of chance, I wouldn't be in this country now or anyplace else, because the Engineer Camouflage Battalion that I was assigned to landed in Normandy on D-Day Plus One, and took about 85 percent casualties. But there were several other artists, as you might imagine, in Engineer Camouflage Battalion, because they recruited artists for utterly irrelevant reasons. They had a notion that camouflage had something to do with the visual arts. It was an interesting unit.…

Paul J. Karlstrom: I want to ask you a couple of questions, if I may. You mentioned other artists in the Engineer Camouflage group. Any that would be of special interest to us?

Clinton Adams: Two of significance. Jesse Reichek, who became my closest friend, and certainly you know Jesse and you know Jesse's work. Jesse was in the unit from early on. Jesse's a very, very willful character, shall we say. Jesse was not willing to put up with regulations quietly, and one of my jobs as assistant adjutant was to keep Jesse from being court martialed at one point. But we've had a close, close friendship over now, what, fifty years. When we get together, we argue about art and the discussion picks up just where it left off the time before. And Marshall Fredericks, who was a member of the National Academy, rather conservative traditional sculpture, was one of the company commanders. There were several fine theater people. George Izenour, the theater designer, a very prominent theater designer who did a lot of the design of Lincoln Center, etc., etc., was in the unit, and there were a number of others. Karl Bruder, who was a professor of theater in Kansas. A great number of people who eventually wound up one place or another in the arts. The only one I've kept up closely with is Jesse Reichek and Henry Klopot, K-L-O-P-O-T, who lives in Hollywood, and was one of the chief lighting designers for the studios over a period of years.